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Benjamin Barker - "Rubik's Cube" (NPS 2013)

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Published on Aug 22, 2013

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Benjamin Barker, performing for Salt Lake City during prelims at the 2013 National Poetry Slam.


For my 6th birthday my grandfather gave me a Rubik's cube
I will always be able to remember its edges
Hold it in my hands
Heft the weight of an overwhelming problem.

I remember him telling me about it,
How a Rubik's cube has 43 quintillion,
252 quadrillion,
3 trillion,
274 billion,
489 million,
856 thousand possibilities.

He told me it can be really confusing sometimes,
but to look at the center squares
as a reminder of what color each side should be.

shift

We are celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary
He and grandma are dancing a dance
that only fragile legs and wrinkled hands know how to.
That type of happiness took him 70 years to earn.
The white side of the cube is solved.

shift

He tells me about how he met grandma
His college friends had a sunset picnic
She was there,
As beautiful as an unsolved puzzle
She was a redheaded scramble on orange tile sky.

shift

The hospital walls are blue
The nurses explain that his memories have become jumbled
strangers in family portraits
pictures with mismatched faces.
Alzheimer's has made his mind into a Rubik's cube.

shift

He is a highway patrolman
His car is white,
No no, it's blue
He worked there for 30 years
some nights he still does.
Time is a complicated algorithm.

shift

The pills he holds are yellow
and red
and green
the weight of their color causes his hand to drop
I try to shift his tiles back into place
But people don't have center squares.
His mind is a hospital bed divided by zero.

shift

My sister's wedding is white
but he doesn't know why.

shift

World War Two is every color
the south pacific is blue,
the islands are green
There is so much red.

shift

Grandpa,
Table,
Cube,
Names scrambled California
Guitar grapefruit highway
Wedding bell wars
Stick shift rifles
South pacific mirrors.

shift
shift shift
shift shift
shift shift shift

The temperature of his hands is blue.
Death is colorless.

I will always remember his edges
Hold him in my hands
Heft the weight of an overwhelming problem.

I was unable to attend his funeral,
I never found out the algorithm to solve him.

A Rubik's cube has over 43 quintillion possibilities.
A casket only has one.

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